Looking at that title I’m realizing you may think that these two are connected, like your filitering the water from the bidet, BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE!!!!
Ulyana’s (my hostess) apartment is awesome! It’s new and clean and big and best of all it has a bidet. (to people actually use these or are they just a status symbol?) and filtered water in the kitchen. I was so excited about the water, mainly excited about it most because I don’t even know how to use a bidet. I love water and in Russia and Ukraine you have to be really careful about the water. In Moscow you have to boil it if you want to drink it and after you boil it it gets this orange foam on the top. In Voronezh my bath water had dirt and chunks of wood in it and after just brushing my teeth with the water in St Pete I was toilet bound for several days. So this water filter has been the highlight of my trip. I just go in there and get water at will. I feel like a queen.
This apartment is abnormally nice. Although there is a rising middle class in Ukraine who can afford these nice apartments, most people do not live in this nice of places. Kitchens are smaller, appliances are older, rooms are more cluttered. But I’m not complaining about the luxury, however unauthentic it may be. I’ve lived in a khrushevka, the slums of Russian housing built in the Khruschev era, so I’ve had the authentic experience and have paid my dues.
I could tell that Ulyana had made great preperations for me. She even bought soft toilet paper for me. I could tell that she must have bought this special because the original brown paper bag toilet paper was back in the corner.
For lunch we had kolbasa(a less mysterious version of bologna) and bread and cheese. When I was in Moscow I didn’t eat pork products so I never ate kolbasa, except once to get a nagging babushka off my back. The kolbasa that Ulyana had was definitely better then the giant and plasticky mysterious stuff that I had in Moscow. But I still only had one piece. People are super hospitible here and it sometimes results in being, what feels like, force fed, like a goose being fattend up for pate. For anyone who will be visiting a Russian or Ukrainian for dinner and you don’t want to end up full and sick the key is to EAT PAINFULLY SLOW! If they see your plate is empty they’ll keep feeding you.
So after lunch, Ulyana and I went to buy a phone. I got a not fancy Nokia phone and card (here you buy SIM cards with a prepaid amount of money on them, no contracts). When my husband and I were in Kiev 4 years ago we took out $100 dollars in Hrivna for one day. That’s how much we were spending in Moscow every day. Well, Kiev is much cheaper and we only ended up spending about $20. So I had a bunch of money leftover from 2007. I paid for my phone yesterday with this money and they all laughed. They changed the money a couple of years ago. They were like, “Woah where’d you get this?” and I said I was keeping it in a cave in America. They all laughed at me.
So I spent about $35 dollars for my phone and the card.
Ulyana’s English is sweet. She asked me if I had my own ‘flaptop’. It was cute.
We haven’t had to speak any Russian yet. We walked around the city yesterday and spoke Ukrainian the whole time. I was pretty proud of myself.
I will give more detail about the city as I learn it. Yesterday was just an orientation and I was too tired to learn the specifics on anything.
One thing I will talk about is the food. It’s so natural here. It tastes so earthy. I don’t know how to describe it but even the potatoes taste more real. Yesterday we bought a bag of raspberries from a babusya (Ukrainian for babushka which is English for grandma which English for the Spanish abuela which is Spanish for the Greek gia gia, alright didn’t want any reader to feel out of the loop) on the street. She gathered these wild raspberries herself in the forest. What an entrepreneurial little grandma! This is very common in Russia and Ukraine to see babushki out selling various goods that they made or harvested themselves. When I took the picture of these people selling stuff on the street Ulyana was surprised that I was surprised by it. It was so hard to explain to her why the scene of a women hauling around a giant bag of her homemade piroshki (fried bread stuffed with various fillings) would be interesting to Americans. I couldn’t really come up with an articulate explanation. I mean, we have the farmer’s market, but it’s still so official. There’s something about babusi in their mid-summer sweaters and pantyhose and kerchiefs selling tiny little quantities of wild berries, mushrooms or onions or canned goods or knit sweaters that is so sweet and strange to us. Can anyone explain why it is so?